Marcus Hayes: Eagles' world at Lehigh will never be the same following Garrett Reid's death

Posted: August 08, 2012

BETHLEHEM — It never will be normal here again.

Garrett Reid was found dead at training camp Sunday morning.

Nearly every significant player and every single coach at Lehigh University forever will connect this school and its dorms and the practice fields and the locker room with the shocking death of a 29-year-old who, a team statement issued last night implied, could not escape his past drug use.

His family never judged him. It only loved him. All of his family.

"This," said Eagles end Trent Cole, "is a family. And one of our own has passed."

Family? That sounds trite, right? Overused, nowhere more than in athletics.

"Family" carries more weight with football: a violent contest that creates a brotherhood, no matter how temporary. Entrance into the NFL world is earned, dearly.

Garrett Reid and his brother, Britt, earned their entrance. They were the favored among the five Reid children, the early pride of the head coach. They played themselves, in high school. They knew the culture. The rules.

Every player knew Andy Reid's sons. They were mascots. For more than a decade, players tousled their hair and teased them about girls and served as their heroes.

The Reid boys were given game-day jobs. They knew how to conduct themselves on an NFL sideline, in an NFL locker room.

They have been around Cole all of Cole's seven seasons. Garrett Reid and Cole, also 29, grew closer this past week. Garrett served as an unofficial aide in the Eagles weight room. He helped monitor Cole as Cole rehabilitated an injured shoulder.

"I worked out with him just a couple of days ago," Cole said. "It's weird. One day, you're talking to a man. Next day, you wake up and he's gone."

Cole lived through the Reid boys' worst days. Drugs sent both of them to jail; Garrett, twice. The monkey on his back drove him to every brush with the law.

Neither Cole nor any of the other players cared about Garrett's troubles.

They just cared about Garrett.

Never again will Cole enter that weight room without thinking of Garrett Reid.

Never again will Andy Reid be at Lehigh without living the nightmare that was Sunday morning.

"You wonder how this will affect him in the coming years, coming back here, year after year," said Wiley Edwards, 48.

Edwards wore an old Jeremiah Trotter jersey. A fixture at training camp, he sensed disaster Sunday morning.

"We always see Coach Reid's car come by and drop him off," Edwards said. "When it never dropped him off, we knew something was wrong."

What was wrong was unimaginable.

In Hellertown, next door to the practice fields, Edwards raised his own son, Chris, 28.

"I cannot imagine what Andy's going through, and his wife [Tammy], and the other kids," Edwards said. "If something like that happened to Chris, I wouldn't be able to function, mentally."

Edwards is a typical Eagles fan.

He thrilled through Buddy Ryan's regular-season runs then agonized as Ryan and Randall Cunningham stalled in the playoffs. He witnessed the Rich Kotite debacle, the regrouping under Ray Rhodes, and, finally, continual respectability of Reid's reign.

Edwards knows how lucky the Eagles are to have Reid. Still, he remains critical of Reid and the organization simply because it has yet to win a Super Bowl.

Typical.

And, typically, Edwards said he bristled as, over the years, Reid became more and more detached from the fans; dismissive or deflective of questions about performances; and, sometimes, downright rude.

"He always kept you at arm's length," Edwards said.

Surely, Reid's loss of his firstborn will modulate fans' resentment. In the future, Edwards admitted, he and others like him will be more empathetic.

"I think we will be easier on him," Edwards said.

The beating Reid takes, sometimes weekly, long has stunned his coaching staff. Perhaps the beatings will end, a couple of assistants said. Perhaps, at least, they will be fairer, they hope. The assistants get bloodied by everything that happens to the boss.

All of the longtime assistants knew Garrett. Like a close nephew.

None of the assistants ever will work at Lehigh again without wondering, like Edwards, how their worlds would collapse if one of their sons died.

Not receivers coach David Culley, who has one son, Monty; or running backs coach Ted Williams, who has three boys. Not Mike Zordich, a former Eagles safety, now coaching safeties after coaching his own boys in high school. Both now play in college.

Not special teams coach Bobby April, whose 30-year-old son, Bobby III, joined the Eagles' staff last season.

Not offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, whose son, Skyler, begins his career as a quarterback at Florida in a few weeks.

Not defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, whose eldest of four boys, Gregory, 22, recently put his senior season as a cornerback at Iowa in peril with a strained hamstring.

Today, as Andy Reid buries his own firstborn, Juan Castillo rejoices over a glorious, very temporary hamstring strain. n

Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to www.philly.com/MarcusHayes.

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